A suspect being questioned over the unsolved murders of three British family members and a French cyclist in the Alps nine years ago is the same motorcyclist who was arrested in 2015 and released without charge, French media has reported.
The custody of the suspect, who was rearrested on Wednesday morning, has been extended as investigators “verify the timeline”, Annecy prosecutor Line Bonnet said.
She did not give further details on the case or reveal the person’s identity because the investigation is ongoing.
BFMTV reported that it is the same man who was questioned over the killings seven years ago after police circulated a sketch of a biker seen near the crime scene, but no evidence was found to implicate him at the time.
The French broadcaster quoted his defence lawyer, Jean-Christophe Basson-Larbi, as saying that his rearrest was down to a “judicial error” and “not justified”.
The lawyer said his client was not “someone who might have committed such a cold-blooded, premeditated murder”.
“The gentleman’s position has always been the same: ‘I was walking… but never crossed paths with this poor family,” Mr Basson-Larbi told journalists.
Saad al-Hilli, 50, his wife, Ikbal, 47, and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, were shot dead on a road near Annecy in eastern France on September 5 2012.
Their two young daughters survived the horror, but 45-year-old cyclist Sylvain Mollier was also killed.
An photofit of a motorcyclist in a distinctive helmet seen nearby was issued by police in 2013.
He was arrested two years later, but was released after claiming he had been paragliding in the area.
He said he had not come forward earlier, despite the wide circulation of the sketch, because he had not seen anything and did not think his testimony would be useful, BFMTV reported.
He is a 57-year-old father and company manager, according to the broadcaster.
The bodies of Iraqi-born engineer Mr al-Hilli and his dentist wife, who lived in Claygate, Surrey, were discovered along with that of Mrs al-Hilli’s mother in their BMW on a remote forest route.
In a bizarre twist, Mrs al-Hilli’s previous husband, an American dentist named only as James T, died from a heart attack on the same day as the couple, but police said there was no link to the murders.
Suspects previously arrested in connection with the case include an Iraqi prisoner known as Mr S who was claimed to have said he had been offered “a large sum of money” to kill Iraqis living in the UK.
Mr al-Hilli’s brother, Zaid, was also arrested on suspicion of murder in 2013 but was later told he would face no further action after police found there was insufficient evidence to charge him with a crime.
Nine years into the investigation, no charges have been filed in the case.
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